Natan’s Notes on 1 Samual 4 to 6

1 Samuel 4

1 Samuel 4:3, When it comes among us it may save us. The ark of the covenant had become little more than a religious talisman or a good luck charm to the spiritually destitute Israelites. The fact that it symbolized the presence of Elohim among his people thus signifying how his people should act in the presence of their Creator, Benefactor and Protector mean nothing to them. The ark had become nothing more than a religious icon similar to a statue of the virgin Mary or some other saint, or a crucifix, a cross hanging somewhere or a picture of “Jesus.” These type of items give people a warm, fuzzy religious feeling and makes them feel spiritual, yet, beyond that, it held no significance in their lives, and certainly did not mitigate their irreligious lifestyle. You have no doubt heard the saying that Christianity is about relationship, not religion. Well, the Israelites certainly found this out the hard way when the Philistines shockingly captured the ark of the covenant. Wooden boxes, like crucifixes, church buildings, paintings of biblical characters, a cross worn around the neck, a Christmas tree, a statue of Saint Francis or the Buddha or some other religious paraphernalia mean nothing to the Almighty. Rather, it is the heart of man and obedience that matters. That does not mean that there is not a place for religious items, for the Tabernacle of Moses was full of them. The difference is that these items where vehicles to bring the religious person into a personal relationship with their Elohim, and not an end in themselves as the ark had become for the Israelites.

1 Samuel 4:15, His eyes were so dim…he could not see. Eli suffered both from physical and spiritual blindness. It is true that one’s eyes grow dim with age as the body wear down. But the sad fact is that Scripture reveals that Eli had lost his spiritual eyesight because of his spiritual complacency and tepidness. Sometimes how we are on the outside—our physical ailments—mirror what is going on in the inside—our spiritual condition. This is why when we are afflicted or experience trials, we need to pray for wisdom and discernment, so that we can ascertain why we are going through these difficulties and so that we many overcome and grow spiritually (Jas 1:1–4).

1 Samuel 4:22, The glory has departed. Again, the Israelites were focusing on a wooden box—the ark of the covenant, and had missed its deeper significance. The glory of Elohim’s presence had not been in Israel because of a box, but because Israel was YHVH’s set-apart, kadosh or holy nation that diligently hearkened unto his voice and obeyed him. Israel, like the blind Eli, had lost sight of this and had corporately become spiritually blind and destitute. It is for this reason alone that the glory of Elohim had departed the nation. It had little or nothing to do with a wooden, gold plated box.

1 Samuel 5

1 Samuel 5:3–4, Dagon, fallen on his face. This is undoubtedly ranks as one of funniest passages in the entire Bible. The idea of a stone statue falling down and “worshipping” the piece of furniture that represented the Elohim of Israel is hilarious. As serious a book as it is, the Bible contains at least one other passages that stands out as being extremely comical. These is the story of Balaam’s talking donkey. What’s so funny here is that Balaam was so out of his sense that he actually answered his donkey’s questions as if it were an every day occurrence, which it obviously was not. In both of these stories, truth is stranger than fiction, and it would be hard to make up these stories.

Dagan was among one of the pagan gods that the  Philistines worshipped. Some Bible scholars think that Dagan was a fish god because the Hebrew word for fish is dag. More likely, Dagan is the god of the grain harvest (from the Hebrew word dagan meaning “grain”) and was a principal deity in the middle Euphrates region. The pagans believed that various deities controlled difference aspects of nature, and that by worshipping a particular deity they would gain its favor  and thus experience physical well-being.

The moral of the story of Dagan twice falling down before the ark of the covenant, and finally, the second time, having its head and hands broken off is clear: the Elohim (God) of Israel was superior to the chief god of the Philistines, which struck fear into Israel’s adversaries.

1 Samuel 5:6, 9, Tumors (Heb. ophel; emerods, KJV, The Catholic Bible; hemorrhoids, NASB). The basic meaning of the Hebrew word ophel is “tumor”and refers to some loathsome skin disease. In the fourth century, in his Latin Vulgate, Jerome translated ophel as “swellings of the secret parts,” which would suggest the idea of either a hemorrhoid or some sexually transmitted disease. In pagan cultures, the idea existed that to appease the wrath of a god one needed to present gifts as a trespass offering to it. The fact that to presumably to appease the wrath of the God of Israel, the Philistines made golden images of tumors and mice may suggest that whatever the cause of the tumors was, it was brought on by mice or rats (1 Sam 6:4). This points to the bubonic plague which is caused by flees from small animals such as rats. The word bunonic derives from the Greek word meaning “groin”. Whatever the nature of the disease that broke out among the Philistines, it caused the fear of Elohim to come upon them and they wanted to be rid of the ark of the covenant post haste.

1 Samuel 6

1 Samuel 6:3–6, So they said. The heathen Philistine priests, diviners and diviners had a much greater sense of spiritual reality than nearly all of our modern post-Christian and secular humanist social leaders and our lukewarm and apostate spiritual leaders. The Philistine leaders understood that their sin had brought YHVH’s judgment upon their nation, which is more than can be said for most of our modern social and spiritual leaders who are so arrogant and blind spiritually that they have lost touch spiritually with everything except what will keep their manmade kingdoms going.

1 Samuel 6:4, Five golden tumors…rats. See notes at 1 Samuel 5:6, 9.

1 Samuel 6:7, 9, Milk cows. The Philistines put YHVH to the test. If the cows returned to their calves (according to their natural instincts), then there was nothing supernatural about the ark. However, if the cows went against their natural instincts and headed for Israel, instead of returning to their calves, then this would be a sign from YHVH that his hand was upon the ark.

1 Samuel 6:19, Fifty thousand and seventy men.This is likely a copyist error, since the LXX and Josephus state the number as being only seventy. The marginal references in many Bibles note this as well. The ArtScroll Rubin Edition Commentary on 1 and 2 Samuel state that according to Jewish tradition, the number of Israelite men killed was 70, while the number of Philistines was 50,000 (page 43). (See note at 2 Sam 15:7.)


Isaac was well-off with wells. How is you well-being?


Genesis 26:1–29, There was a famine in the land. At the well of Lachai-roi (or “the well of the Living One seeing me,” Gen 24:62), Isaac was fruitful. There he met his wife while in communion with YHVH (Gen 24:62–64). Isaac also dwelt there for 20 years, and there he entreated YHVH because of Rebekah’s barrenness (Gen 25:21), and YHVH answered Isaac’s prayer and Rebekah gave birth to twins (Gen 25:22).

But because of famine in the land, Isaac felt compelled to leave Canaan to seek relief in Egypt following the earlier footsteps of his father, Abraham. Is it wise to rely on “Egypt” (a metaphor for the world) for our sustenance instead of trusting YHVH and believing that where he has planted us and blessed us is where we should stay? While en route to Egypt, YHVH gracefully redirected Isaac away from Egypt instructing him rather to sojourn in Gerar (temporarily) where he would continue to bless him and his posterity (Gen 26:2–4). Isaac obeyed YHVH—more or less. Isaac ended up in Gerar located on the border between Canaan and Egypt and dwelt there a long time (not temporarily as YHVH had instructed him, Gen 26:6, 8).

Instead of fully obeying YHVH, it was as if Isaac was hedging his bet between faith and fear, between Canaan, the land of promise, and Egypt, the land of comfort for the flesh man. How often do we halt between two opinions and compromise between YHVH’s will and our own in matters where he has given us clear direction? This place of spiritual indecision and weakness put Isaac in a compromising situation (Gen 26:7). He felt compelled to lie about his wife, thus repeating the sin of his father (Gen 20:1–2).

Compromised obedience puts us in compromising situations where in order to “save our skin” we often have to compromise our values. Though Isaac was out of YHVH’s will, YHVH was still faithful to keep his promises he had made to Isaac earlier (Gen 26:3–4). Isaac was blessed one hundred fold in his wealth (Gen 26:12–14).

Despite YHVH’s blessings, Isaac’s labors were not without difficulty and opposition from an enemy who was intent upon stealing his water wells, which were rightfully his (Gen 26:12–15).

In the arid regions of the Holy Land, wells are essential for survival and prosperity. Wells are a spiritual metaphor for salvation, life, abundance and truth—things the enemy is intent on taking from us (in this light, consider Isa 12:3; 55:1–3; Ps 36:9; John 4:7–14; 7:37–39; 10:10).

Genesis 26:18–22, And Isaac dug again. Isaac redug the wells that belonged to his father in the land YHVH promised to him, yet the world opposed him and stole from him what was rightfully his.

The wells’ names were Contention and Strife. How easy it is to allow fleshly or demonically motivated people to oppose and deter us from our divine destiny. What was Isaac’s response? He took the high road of peace refusing to be embroiled in carnal battles. His faith in YHVH was undaunted and at the third well he found, which he named spaciousness (Heb. Rehoboth) and contained a vast supply of water.

Are you striving and contending with the spiritual Philistines in your life? Are they keeping you from moving onward spiritually into a place of fruitfulness where the river of life from YHVH’s throne flows?

Following the example of Isaac, choose your battles carefully. It is not necessary to engage the enemy at every point of conflict. Sometimes we need to walk away. There is a time to walk away and a time to fight. Be led by the Spirit of Elohim. When you choose to fight, let YHVH fight your battles and you will progress onward and upward in your faith-walk.

Genesis 26:23–25, He went up…to Beersheba. Upon retracing the steps of his father, Abraham, back into the land of promise in redigging the ancient wells ending up in Beer-sheba (well of the covenant or seven-fold oath) did YHVH bless Isaac?

The moment Isaac returned back to the heart of Canaan, the heart and center of YHVH’s will for his life, what happened? (See verse 4.)

Is YHVH calling you back to the ancient wells of salvation? Is he calling you to retrace the steps of your father Abraham, the father of faith, to return to the ancient paths where a special blessing awaits you? (Read Mal 4:4–6 and Jer 6:16, 19; 18:15.)